You may find it odd that a feature of life with which everyone is familiar with from time to time is listed as a problem. The truth is that lack of sleep may be a complicating factor in coping with times of stress. Additionally, some people have developed styles and patterns which deny them sleep. This page addresses a few concepts and remedial activities.
Forms of insomnia
- Waking early
- Difficulty in getting to sleep for a period of time
- Prolonged, disturbed and light sleep
- Sleep which is interrupted by shock and fear on sudden waking (night terror)
- Sleep which is interrupted by nightmares
- Small amounts of sleep with cat napping at other times
- Occasional complete absence of sleep.
Not so normal:
- Any of the above which becomes chronic (i.e. lasts for an extended duration or occurs in repeated bouts over a long period)
- Sleep which has a radically disordered rhythm
- Disturbance caused by shift work
- Seasonally affected sleep (e.g. excessive sleep in winter )
- Sleep disturbance associated with feeling depressed (or having Chronic Fatigue or ME)
- Apnoea (a sort of snoring but with a breathing lapse involved)
- Snoring problems
- Teeth grinding
Strategies for addressing insomnia
Strategies to beat insomnia fall into these main categories:
Getting help from others
Changing your night-time routine
Preparing the body for sleep
Behaviour conducive to sleep.
- Getting help from others
- Check with your doctor to assess whether you have a disordered pattern. This is particularly the case with abnormal sleep.
- Talk with a counsellor [link] about issues which impinge on your sleep.
- Consider referral to a sleep clinic if matters are advanced.
- Changing your night-time routine
- Noise - consider using earplugs to reduce the amount of background distraction noise ("white noise").
- Temperature - not too hot, not too cold.
- Don't go to bed hungry.
- Modify late-night drinking and go to the toilet in order to avoid being woken by a full bladder.
- Make your bed as comfortable as possible.
- Reduce mental activity two hours before sleep.
- Reduce light levels two hours before sleep.
- Have a range of distractions available for use in the event of insomnia - relaxed area away from the bed plus hot water bottle, light reading.
- Create a sleeping environment free from work and disturbance.
- Preparing the body for sleep
- Use diet and herbs to provide you with the chemistry which encourages sleep, particularly foods containing melatonin may be helpful - e.g. oats, sweetcorn, rice, ginger, tomatoes, bananas and barley. Oats contain the most, barley the least. Avoid caffeine intake after 3pm.
- Decrease alcohol intake before sleep.
- Avoid respiratory stimulants before sleep (cigarettes).
- Avoid exercise before bedtime (increases stress response chemistry in many people).
- Behaviour conducive to sleep
- Keep sleep to limits; don't oversleep.
- Avoid long daytime napping.
- Don't allow too much sleeplessness to occur in bed. Get up and do light things until you feel drowsy again.
- Don't magnify or alarm yourself over your sleepless state, this may make it worse.
- Consciously stop yourself worrying at night. Write concerns down and deal with them in the morning.
Natural Sleep: How to Beat Insomnia without Drugs (Anthea Courtney) Thorsons. 1990
The Good Sleep Guide (Michael Van Straten, Kylie Cathie) 2004
The Effortless Sleep Method (Sasha Stephens) CreateSpace. 2011